This week I hauled up to my friend’s barn to ride in her arena. I have a makeshift grass arena, and I’m thankful for it, but there’s something to be said for that perfectly level arena footing.
I had two goals for the trip; first, to expose Heidi to something different and build our partnership, and secondly to see if she was any better away from home than she is in our little arena. (Remember, when I got her she was basically unrideable in an arena setting, but fine on trails.)
Well. She completely exceeded my expectations! My friend has two alpha type mares. She rode one in the arena with me and Heidi while the other ran along the fence line and acted like a gangster, bucking and sorting and daring Heidi to come closer. Heidi was both curious and appropriately terrified. I had zero trouble keeping her away from Scary Mare. My friend’s mare that she was riding was also not interested in being friends, although Heidi really, really wanted to talk about boys and braid each other’s manes. We kept them on opposite sides of the arena and my friend’s mare pinned her ears if Heidi so much as looked in her direction.
This was my first time taking Heidi out to ride with new horses and it was encouraging. She was curious but not so distracted that she tuned me out. An endurance ride has a shit ton of horses all out together so hopefully she remembers her manners there too.
Second, I wanted to see how she would behave in the arena, the place that in the past sent her into hysterics. In her sale video in an arena she had her nose in the air and wouldn’t budge, so I knew what I was getting into. Turns out she bucked and reared too, but by the time I figured that out, it was too late. In my little arena at home she’s been improving, but still gets “sticky” sometimes and still hates being asked to trot. Pins her ears and swishes her tail every time. I’ve had people tell me it’s saddle fit, teeth, ulcers, pain, etc… but she ONLY acts like that in the arena. She trots just fine on the trail. And in from the pasture at dinner time. And toward a treat. So I know it’s mental resistance and not physical pain, and this trip proved me right.
Heidi. Was. Awesome. Other than a little impatient head tossing and some minor steering issues, she was freaking amazing. We walked. We trotted. We hopped over a pole on the ground. We did things that normal people do with their horses, with no attitude or craziness or feelings of depressed defeat on my part at the end. I finally had the horse I’ve been working on getting for 11 months now. I was ecstatic!
With that said, we are nowhere near show ring ready. But I have a horse I can do things with and not worry about dying! I told Heidi I would let her be a trail horse if that’s what she enjoys, and I intend to keep that promise, but I want a versatile horse that I can ride anywhere with no issue. After 11 months of patience and determination, I’m getting that horse!
She had a snack after the ride to practice eating by the trailer with distractions. No problems there! But she didn’t want to drink much, so that’s something I’ll have to watch. Overall though, a fantastic day!